Let us state the obvious: Mr. Manners was never a whizbang in school. He went to a college (really more of a country club) that catered to sons and daughters of wealthy parents who were too “limited” to get into, say, Harvard or Yale.
During “final exams” (an odious invention), Mr. Manners did reasonably well on multiple choice questions but, truth be known, he was especially adept at “true/false” challenges. He was always a good guesser. (In later years, when he got into stocks and bonds, this facility seems to have left him.)
Nevertheless, perhaps because of the trauma of facing “finals,” Mr. Manners, when he couldn’t sleep, developed a nocturnal habit of creating exam questions that he could easily answer. We’ll give you an example:
Question: “What do leaf blowers, smoke detectors, Cayman motorcycles, Hillary Clinton, and Rooster talk show host Woody DaCosta have in common?”
Someone would do Mr. Manners (and by proxy the world) a great favor if they would WHISPER into Hillary’s and Woody’s ears that shouting into a microphone does little other than annoy those within earshot.
Shouting has nothing to do with truth telling, little to do with emphasis, is an ineffective artifice for sincerity, and is antithetical to empathy.
To hear Hillary howl is reason enough to vote against her. Can anyone imagine listening to that for four years (or God help us, eight; where’s Dr. Kevorkian when we need him)?
Woody is worse. At least Hillary is bellowing about women’s rights or the economy or some such thing. Woody is screaming about Subway sandwiches and the weather in such cacophonic tones that squawking green parrots would cover their ears (if they could). Feigned enthusiasm isn’t enthusiasm at all. In fact, it’s its opposite.
(This might be an opportune time to plug, well, earplugs. The high-tech version, produced by Hush Technology, no doubt will be the greatest invention of the 21st century. These little marvels not only silence the strident and the snorers among us but also broadcast soothing sonorous sounds directly into your ear canals. Good night’s sleep, here we come. $150 seems like a small price to pay.)
But Mr. Manners is straying (again) from his main topic. What we’re really talking about here, of course, is sincerity or authenticity. Groucho Marx once famously said, “Sincerity is the key to success. Once you can fake that, you’ve got it made.”
What makes for a moving and, therefore, effective oration has nothing to do with erudition or slickness or smoothness. It has to do with authenticity, and we can prove it.
Even more so for authenticity. Forget everything you’ve ever been told about public speaking. What makes for a moving and, therefore, effective oration has nothing to do with erudition or slickness or smoothness. It has to do with authenticity, and we can prove it.
We don’t think Cayman’s Raglan Roper would object to our telling the following tale:
Long ago, Mr. Manners was in a Rotary Club meeting and during the socializing preceding the main program, he spied a fellow with his head in his hands in a corner, being anything but sociable. He approached him to be certain everything was all right – yes, it was Raglan Roper – and he confided that no, everything was not all right.
Raglan was scheduled to give a five-minute talk that evening about himself and his job, and he was so terrified of public speaking that he believed he just couldn’t do it.
We thought otherwise, and proceeded to offer some advice.
He was to get up to the microphone, look directly at Mr. Manners in the audience, and tell him exactly how he began what was to become a very successful career in business.
“I can’t do it,” protested Raglan.
“Yes, you can,” we countered. And he did.
He began, with noticeable nervousness in his voice, by describing how he was so destitute as a young man that he got on his bicycle, with a pail and squeegee hanging from his handlebars, and pedaled door to door, almost begging people if he might wash their windows.
Raglan hesitated, his voice cracked, he probably wanted to bolt, but he didn’t. He soldiered on. Then a curious thing happened.
A hush – more than a hush, total silence – enveloped the room as Raglan continued his story. Grown men, slightly embarrassed, made surreptitious moves to dry their moist eyes.
It was one of the worst-delivered, but greatest speeches ever heard in these islands.
Why? Because it was authentic.
And that is the lesson of the day. In a society of mass culture and mass communications, we are bombarded by sanitized speech, by politically correct discourse, by nutritionless language that, as the Bard once wrote, is “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
And so, screamers, howlers, and bellowers, please take note (or at least take pity): Lower your decibel level to 70 dB or below. For reference, a margarita blender clocks in at 88 dB, conversation at home at 50 dB, bird calls at 40 dB, and whispers at 20.
Debate in the Legislative Assembly, to our knowledge, has not been tested.